Gabriella Wilde stars in our summer issue

The ‘Poldark’ actress and model looks ethereally beautiful in a magical secret-garden setting

Interview by Catriona Gray. All photographs by Richard Phibbs and styled by Miranda Almond. Dress and headdress, Dior Haute Couture 

It seems to be Gabriella Wilde’s fate to be surrounded by highly-strung animals. At the Town & Country photo-shoot, she played second fiddle to a truculent peacock who had his own ideas about what constituted a good pose. And, as fans of the period blockbuster Poldark will know, she spends a large portion of her working life in the company of a little black-faced pug. Playing the deliciously manipulative heiress Caroline Penvenen, Wilde has brought a touch of glamour to the 18th-century copper mines, capturing the heart of the local doctor and defying her guardian, all the while with a lapdog clasped to her chest.

“I don’t think anyone anticipated how difficult it would be to film with a pug,” she says. “They’re so noisy – Horace snuffled over every track so each bit of the recording had to be edited. But the dog was perfect for Caroline – she’s like a child at the beginning, very young and naive, and her pet almost fulfilled the role of a teddy bear.” 

Dress and headdress, Dior Haute Couture. Ring, Claude Lalanne 

There was another reason that Horace featured so prominently in Poldark; he was a convenient prop to shield Wilde’s figure, as shooting of season two coincided with her second pregnancy. “I got the role and three days later I discovered that I was pregnant,” she says. “As it was a seven-month shoot, I assumed that I probably couldn’t take it. But the writer and producer Debbie Horsfield said, ‘Hang on a second, why can’t we do this? Why can’t she work, and be a mother and pregnant, if she feels that she can?’ So we made it happen, which has been really wonderful and quite refreshing. They even let me bring Shiloh on set for the latest series when he was just a couple of months old. In my industry, it’s often assumed that if you have babies, then you’re not going to have your career.” 

It’s hard to tell that the willowy blonde has two small sons – she’s 28 but looks even younger, with flawless porcelain skin and an ethereal beauty. Her husband Alan Pownall is the lead singer of the electro-pop band Pale and the couple now live near the fashionable Somerset town of Bruton, in three old farm cottages that have been knocked together. Previously a city dweller, Wilde found herself unexpectedly longing to return to the countryside after her eldest son was born and she realised that she didn’t want to bring him up in the capital. “People started asking me which school I had put Sasha down for when he was only two weeks old!” she recalls. “We had no connections to Somerset – I grew up in Hampshire, my husband is from Richmond and most of our friends are in London. We just took a risk, sold our flat in Ladbroke Grove and moved down here.” 

Dress and headdress, Dior Haute Couture. Earrings and ring, Dior Joaillerie 

Wilde started out as a model at just 14, after being introduced to the stylist Isabella Blow by a friend of her mother’s – for she is very well connected indeed. Born Gabriella Zanna Vanessa Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, she is a descendant of Charles II and part of a dynasty of society beauties that includes Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry’s former girlfriend and a childhood friend of hers. Having already done a few fashion shoots, she met Naomi Campbell by chance at a party, who introduced her to her own agent and things took off from there. But Wilde swiftly realised that she was not cut out for her new profession.

“I went into it full time, I think I lasted three months. I just hated it,” she confesses. “I stopped modelling altogether for a while and went to art school. I even taught art for a little bit – it was only a couple of years later thatI decided acting was something that I really wanted to do.” Once she had chosen her new path, she threw herself into it wholeheartedly – starring in the romantic drama Endless Love, taking a major part in the remake of Carrie and roles in The Three Musketeers and St Trinian’s. She is also a brand ambassador for Estée Lauder, as well as being a permanent fixture on the BBC’s wildly popular adap­tation of Poldark.  

Dress and bonnet, Dior Haute Couture 

This is an extract of Town & Country’s interview with Gabriella Wilde. To read the full article, buy the summer issue, on sale here

Season three of ‘Poldark’ airs on BBC One on Sundays at 9pm this June.

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MORE FROM THE MAGAZINE

The glorious Gabriella Wilde

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